For that exact demographic, there exists an absolute productivity powerhouse better known as the Surface Book. While the Surface Pro took portable performance to new heights, the Surface Book pushes the envelope with complete disregard for any sort of compromise. Its do-it-all attitude is ambitious, and if this new version is anything to go by, there’s no stopping Microsoft from achieving that elusive goal.
Spec bumps are a given, but the Surface Book 2 takes its predecessor’s idea to an extreme. It locks targets on multiple users at one go that include designers, audio enthusiasts, digital workers and even gamers. Does that make it overkill for most or does it lay down the blueprint for the ultimate portable workhorse? This first-hand experience should paint a clear picture.
DESIGN & BUILD: THAT HINGE TWINGE
The Surface Book 2’s stark and minimalist exterior truly stands out on a desk without screaming ‘look at me’ from the rooftops. Sharp angles and shapely curves ensure you don’t mistake it for an imposter even for a second. It’s two supremely capable components put together: a 13.5in tablet and a keyboard base that holds exciting secrets of its own.
Machined from magnesium alloy, the signature tank-tred style hinge holds everything together. Combined, the pair of components weigh just 1.5kg so your doesn’t protest in pain. It’s filled with essential ports such as two USB 3.0 ports, SD card slot, USB C in the keyboard base and a headphone jack in the tablet end of things.
SCREEN & SOUND: BIG AND BOLD
Considering the amount of stare-offs we play with our screens all day, their performance is more critical than ever. Microsoft’s kept a keen eye on this growing demand and equipped its computers with some of the prettiest panels around. The Surface Book 2 honours this tradition with a 13.5in 3:2 ratio stunner beaming pristine 3000x2000 picture of top quality.
Regular folk will get all teary-eyed with the results but it’s gamers, video editors and designers that’ll truly appreciate the advantages of such a screen. Visible pixels are all but gone unless you get inappropriately close to your screen. Key components delivering the goods in their respective departments are colour, contrast and almost blinding levels of brightness.
The inclusion of HDR would’ve been a big bonus, but you’re not quite aching for that experience given the Surface Book 2’s amazingly close results. You’ve gotta love the integration of the dual front-facing stereo speakers at almost ear-level pumping out some rather impressive audio. Sufficiently loud with a hint of bass even, they’re plenty for a video chat or YouTube.
IN USE: TOP TYPIST
With the screen docked into the base, it’s hard to tell the whole setup apart from a traditional laptop. But then there’s that little keyboard button in the base waiting to be pressed. It’ll pop the screen out of its cradle a bit letting you conveniently pull the two apart and switch to tablet mode. Now that’s one hell of a party trick. Flip it around and pop it back into the base for a variety of usage configurations.
The best keyboards are fast and accurate owing to a vast numbers key components working in perfect sync. The Surface Book 2 fulfills all the requisite for such a thing making it a joy to type on. It’s quite possibly, the best typing experience on a laptop today. The touchpad is just as efficient only outdone by the Macbook Pro’s palatial alternative.
ACCESSORIES: ART ATTACK
The Surface Book 2 is just one part of a whole ecosystem of Microsoft devices working together symphonically. The Pen packs 4096 levels of pressure detection and magnetically docks on the side of the tablet which is convenient. Latency levels are class leading making for a experience that feels oddly natural.
The Dial turns things up a notch in terms of creativity. It’ll let you rotate and click to change Photoshop brushes, screen brightness volume / scroll / zoom in any application. Put these two devices in the right hands, and you’ll be amazed by the possibilities of a setup like this.
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE: EFFORTLESS POWER
While the chips underneath keep up with the latest available, the exciting bit is the Nvidia graphics chip built into the base. It powers through video editing, Photoshop / InDesign, without breaking a sweat. So that’s plenty for most of us mere mortals.
But gamers wishing to challenge its tall claims can dock the tablet into the base to summon the Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card boasting of 2GB dedicated memory. Its mid-range shenanigans will support Overwatch and the like. Combined, Microsoft claims the tablet and keyboard will go strong for 17 hours on a full charge so even if you trim the fat from those claims, it gets through a full day’s heavy duty work.
So, should you get one then? If it sounds like overkill for your Netflix binges, then no. If it isn’t exciting the gamer in you, same answer. If the video editor in you is leaning towards the MacBook Pro, then who’s to get in the way of an unstoppable force. But if those extra Microsoft goodies like the Dial and Pen reach out to the designer / geek / creator in you, there’s a good chance you’ll thank us for the recommendation.
Regardless of your use case, you gotta give it to Microsoft for building a machine that’s gorgeous, steady as a rock, and feels like a quality experience from end-to-end. That’s all down to the uncompromising approach to this entire device that shines through. There’s a steep cost of entry to the whole experience, but for someone who’ll use its advantages to complement their skills, there’s no good reason to hold back.